***The Systems Engineering Educational Discovery (SEED) Flight Program will not be offered for the 2014 Flight Season. Undergraduate students interested in applying to the program can submit experiment proposals to the Microgravity University program.***


NASA scientists, engineers, and researchers use the reduced gravity environment in the aircraft to test space-flight hardware, space craft components, and space-flight procedures. With the current plans for the Space Station, microgravity environment is ideal for the development and verification of space hardware, investigations, crew training and it is also ideal for doing basic research.

NASA's specialized aircraft provides a reduced gravity environment, similar to the environment of space flight. The reduced gravity environment is achieved by flying a modified aircraft through a series of parabolic maneuvers. These maneuvers will be flown consecutively, i.e. roller coaster fashion. Normal missions, lasting approximately 1.7 flight hours, consist of 30 parabolic maneuvers over the Gulf of Mexico. Each parabola provides about 30 seconds of hypergravity (about 1.8G-2G) as the plane climbs to the top of the parabola. Once the plane starts to "nose over" the top of the parabola to descend toward Earth, the plane experiences about 15-20 seconds of microgravity (0G). At the very top and bottom of the parabola, flyers experience a mix of partial G's between 0 and 1.8 (called "dirty air"). The pitch of the parabola can be manipulated to provide the students with approximately 35 seconds of lunar gravity for planetary-based investigations.

The aircraft test deck is equipped with electrical power and photo lights. NASA JSC will provide photographers for still photography and video coverage during the flight. Workspace on the ground for assembly of investigations will be provided.


This project offers a nationwide solicitation of student application aimed at addressing systems engineering challenges within a microgravity environment. NASA has identified ongoing projects that are systems engineering and reduced gravity related. Application for these projects are available to all undergraduate students and faculty (over age of 18, US Citizens and enrolled full-time in a college or university) as senior design projects. Up to 14 projects will be selected to participate in this opportunity.

The overall experience includes scientific research, hands-on investigational design, test operations and educational/public outreach activities. SE investigations will adhere to the same processes and procedures governing NASA research and test flights so that SE students and faculty gain insight into the workings of NASA and ensure participant and investigation safety guidelines are followed.

The students attached to the selected proposals would then work with a NASA principal investigator lead for that project, to prepare the experiment for flight. In addition to student involvement, one university/college faculty member will be invited to fly with each team. This will help to provide faculty members with teaching materials in their classroom and can be used as a motivator to increase their students' interest in systems engineering.

Conditions permitting, each investigation will be flown twice so that there can be replication of the investigation and any problems encountered during the first flight can be corrected during the second.

After returning to their respective campuses, flight team members conduct technical outreach events for younger students. As part of the experience, teams will be assigned mentors with specialties in systems engineering.



Questions?  Please contact:

James Semple (jsc-reducedgravity@nasa.gov)

Reduced Gravity Program Coordinator

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